Influence vs. Control

Meaningful Creative Work

Influence vs. Control

Sometimes I tend to micromanage teams. You probably do too. They are creatives — and they can smell it from a mile away. You know — when you start picking colors, choosing songs, or saying you want something to be moved another millimeter. Someone has to make those decisions. If you are a creative leader — it isn’t likely you who should be making those decisions.

It’s the difference between controlling the environment and influencing the environment. Control will end up placing a lid on the team. They’ll wait around for you to make the decision. Or worse — the culture of “wait for Bryan to make the decision” can creep in. Suddenly the team will bog down the the lid of the decision-maker — me in this case.

Instead of control (which has a lid) — try influence (which is scalable). In Todd Henry’s book “Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need” — he calls for influence to rule the day with creative leaders. He implies when you have an amazing creative team — but you try to control them by doing the creative work for them (or in place of them) — they’ll grow tired of the leader’s lid (a John Maxwell principle applied to creatives).

The next time I’m tempted to call that camera shot, make the mix, or select that graphic — influencing is better than controlling. Practically, this means when something might be off in the mix — I shouldn’t say, “Hey, the punch of that kick drum is swallowing the bass guitar…try a side-chain compression.” Rather, I should begin with, “Hey, how do you feel the low end of the mix is working?” Then listen. Then look for ways to influence. Influence vs. control. They can seem to blur together — but there’s a difference between the two.

Influence will scale.

Control will “lid your leadership.”

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